2023 Ecommerce in Canada Report: Stats, Trends and Insights

Canadian consumers have been huge fans of ecommerce for several years, and now the vast majority of online Canadians purchase products on the internet. Online sales have doubled in this country since 2019, as we head towards almost universal adoption of ecommerce.

Canadian small businesses have moved at a snail’s pace by comparison to demand. However, recent economic disruptions and challenges have proven just how critical online sales and services are. Now, even the most stubborn, intimidated, Canadian entrepreneurs have acknowledged the value of the internet as a tool to increase sales and engage customers. As a result, Canadian online shoppers are able to support more small businesses wherever they love to shop, be it online, offline or both.

The State of Ecommerce in Canada

“In 2019, one in ten dollars spent in Canada retail will flow through digital channels,” predicts a previous Visa.ca study. “22.1 million Canadians will be digital buyers in 2019 (68.8% of the total population). By 2023, this number is expected to grow to 24.3 million or 72.8% of the total population in Canada.

Fast-foreword to 2022 when Canadian online shoppers ordered over 26 times each in a year, an increase of 60 percent since 2019, according to Canada Post.

  • 50% of Canadians buy more items online
  • 27% no longer go to malls.
  • 21% avoid in-store shopping
  • 14% order online and use curbside pickup

When a CIRA survey asked if they had made a purchase within the past 12 months, 82 percent of Canadians said they had done so.

Provincially, the numbers vary:

British Columbia 78%
Alberta 87%
Saskatchewan 84%
Manitoba 91%
Ontario 85%
Quebec 77%
New Brunswick 81%
Nova Scotia 85%
Prince Edward Island 92%
Newfoundland Labrador 89%

To understand the reasons behind the different levels of online shopping between Canadian provinces, consider what can impact online shopping habits.

For example:

  • Is there less selection locally, compared to other provinces?
  • Is there a language barrier preventing French-speaking Quebecers from shopping online outside of their home province?
  • Do remote locations make shipping online purchases unaffordable?
  • Is the income range in that province lower or higher than the national average?

Identifying the reasons behind any consumer behaviour reveals new ways to reach them.

This survey also found only 7 percent of Canadians shop at small businesses, compared to 48 percent who shop at large chain stores. However, 35 percent shop at both large AND small businesses equally. Many surveys have found Canadians prefer to ‘shop small’, but they don’t for a variety of reasons.

TIP: You can work around a preference for large chain stores by selling through online marketplaces. Lots of big brands now allow independent sellers in their online marketplace, availing their platform to small businesses.  Fifty-nine percent of Canadians surveyed by GetApp said they shop online marketplaces often, and another 29 percent said they shop there sometimes.

Canadian Ecommerce Trends

“While in-person interactions with customers may have resumed for many small business owners, demand for digital engagement is far from dead. Many Canadians foresee a future where e-commerce and technology remains firmly embedded in the way we live, shop, and do business,” says Don Ludlow, Vice President of Small Business, Partnerships & Strategy, RBC. “For small business owners, steady investments in digital transformation will allow them to sustain their momentum in creating a digitally-enabled business for the long-term.”

According to nShift’s Delivering For Shoppers 2023 guide, the top seven shopping trends are:

  1. Consumers grow price savvy as the cost-of-living bites
  2. The continuing rise of social commerce
  3. The centrality of the customer experience
  4. A non-negotiable approach to returns
  5. Sustainable shopping and shipping
  6. Personalization as a priority
  7. Reliable and quick delivery

Canadian data shows shoppers are increasingly purpose driven, considering the following before they order:

  • 35% say it’s important the company treats its employees well
  • 27% want to see an effort to protect the environment
  • 25% check for sustainably or ethically sourced products
  • 19% want to support more environmentally friendly companies
  • 25% want evidence the business is committed to doing the right thing
  • 11% seek out companies owned by an underrepresented community, while 15% want to support more minority-owned businesses specifically.
  • 11% look for businesses owned and operated by women

“Establishing shared values with customers fosters emotional loyalty. Brands that act with purpose can gain a competitive edge in the market,” states Canada Post. “Consumers with strong emotional connections to brands will visit their stores 32% more often and spend 46% more money than those without emotional bonds.”

Overall, Canadian shoppers consider the following before buying:

  • 43% are looking for a Canadian business
  • 39% want online businesses to take steps to protect the health & safety of shoppers
  • 37% want Canadian-made products
  • 33% want to support more local businesses
  • 21% favour small businesses

[DISCLOSURE: We may receive compensation for links to products on this website.]

QuickBooks suggests Canadians have high expectations for online shopping. More than seven out of 10 consumers want small businesses to make it easy for them to buy online. They will spend more money at small businesses with guaranteed deliveries and returns, quick and easy checkouts, and price-match guarantees. Don’t miss the social media opportunities either: 36 percent of Canadian consumers buy from small businesses through these platforms.

TIP: It’s important to highlight the above practices on your website so Canadians can quickly evaluate your business based on what’s important to them. Don’t make them search for the information they need to make a decision to purchase. It isn’t enough to just say you’re doing something, show them HOW you’re doing it. For example, we use a website host (GreenGeeks) that is dedicated to reducing their environmental impact. Visitors to our websites aren’t going to know that unless we tell them.

The Canadian Online Shoppers Purchase Journey

The typical online purchase journey involves five basic steps:

1. Awareness

Facilitate digital word-of-mouth and encourage reviews. 45% of Canadian shoppers often/always check ratings & reviews when researching brands or products.

2. Discovery

34% of Canadian consumers started their most recent online purchase with a search engine.

3. Consideration

87% of Canadian shoppers say free shipping can be very or extremely influential when they’re selecting a retailer.

4. Conversion

40% of Canadians are more likely to purchase if multiple payment options are available.

5. Retention

30% of Canadian online shoppers avoid buying from a brand again, if they took too long to deliver their order last time.

Shoppers who were dissatisfied with the customer experience provided the following reasons:

  • 34% said the delivery and/or shipping experience was unsatisfactory
  • 25% said customer service was unsatisfactory
  • 19% said they had a poor experience when making a return

We’ll update this report on Canadian ecommerce throughout 2023 as more data becomes available. Follow us on social media or sign up for our newsletter to be notified of updates. Join us in the Online Business Canada Facebook group to discuss these findings or comment below.

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Melody McKinnon
Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website

Melody McKinnon is an internet entrepreneur with 25 years of experience in a wide range of online business models, backed by a formal business education and enhanced by training and mentorship. She has owned or managed both educational and ecommerce websites. Her book, 7 Recession Proof Online Businesses to Start From Home, is available from all major ebook retailers.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadianDigitalMedia.com, CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net, and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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